Skip to comments.PEACE, LOVE, DEATH METAL (unusual info about Adam Pearlman Gadahn)
Posted on 11/01/2004 7:18:25 AM PST by gobucks
Adam Gadahn was just another Riverside County devotee of death metal, but then he turned up on an FBI terror list
If the radical right wanted to paint a portrait of a terrorist, they couldnt do much better than Yahiye Adam Gadahn. In fact, the FBIs announcement last May that it was actively seeking Gadahn for questioning regarding his possible ties to Al Qaeda energized conservatives in ways they could not have imagined helping to not only whip up fears of Islamic radicalism but also to fuel the deepening culture war. The 25-year-old former Orange County resident had a hippie upbringing, a short-but-fanatical devotion to death metal, converted to Islam, and spent two days in jail for attacking a member of his mosque. This story had it all.
Following the FBIs revelation, Gadahns mosque, the Islamic Society of Orange County, and its religious director Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, issued a statement saying how deeply shocked they were that one of their members had shown up on an FBI terror list. Clearly concerned about retaliation, the mosque begged for restraint. We certainly hope and pray that this most recent rise in threat level will pass without incident.
Within a day, an essay titled Becoming Muslim, apparently written by Gadahn in 1995 and originally posted to a USC website, was circulating on the Internet. In it, Gadahn details a preposterous journey, from an unconventional childhood as the son of hippie parents who raised him on a goat farm without electricity or indoor plumbing, to a short (it appears only one year) but fitful fascination with death metal music, to his subsequent conversion to Islam. Having been around Muslims in my formative years, he writes, I knew well that they were not the bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists that the news media and the televangelists paint them to be.
With its Satanic, anti-Christian overtones and penchant for referencing gore and nihilism, the death metal connection proved irresistible to the media across the spectrum from conservative to progressive. A spoof on pittsburglive.com by Tribune Review columnist Eric Heyl poked fun at the right-wing notion that kids who are into death metal are on a short track to Al Qaeda. The first line of his piece read: If only he hadnt cranked up the Ozzy Osbourne.
A lot of hypersensitive metal fans didnt get the joke. The column thus far has inspired nearly 700 vitriolic e-mails, Heyl wrote in a subsequent article titled, Listen, all you metalheads: It was just a joke!
In the Simi Valley offices of Metal Blade Records, where people did get the joke, everybody just shrugged. Why would someone like that get into death metal and then become a religious fanatic? wondered Metal Blade head publicist Kelli Malella. Metal Blade has handled death metal bands such as Cannibal Corpse since the early 90s, when their theatrics and baroque affection for blood and body parts were a strictly underground taste. According to Jon Konrath, publisher of the now-defunct death metal zine Xenocide, and who knew Gadahn in 93, he was a fan of Cannibal Corpse and just the usual, run-of-the-mill death metal bands.
Malella says, They try to blame death metal bands for murders [and] suicides. Fact is, people dont listen to a band and then go out on a killing spree. If they do, they probably have some serious mental problems. To most fans, its fiction, like a horror movie, and they dont take it seriously.
On the left, conspiracy theorists no less energized than their right-wing counterparts got busy, too. They thought it strange, they said, as if the government stitched the story together from scratch. Some kid who never before posted to the Internet drops a deeply personal revelation onto a USC website, a diatribe that is chock full of anti-government, anti-Christian sentiments, and then pretty much disappears from cyberspace. A person doesnt just post his entire life story on the Web and never post again, they say. Youd think someone like that would have been on the Web all the time; at least you could find him on Islamic faith newsgroups, chatting about the Quran.
But Gadahns online presence is scant. Since stuff tends to hang around in cyberspace forever, it does raise questions that, other than Becoming Muslim, and a few news articles hes appeared to have edited about jihad, why is Gadahn nowhere to be found?
There are other odd occurrences about Becoming Muslim, such as Gadahns statements that the U.S. government considered Muslims to be bloodthirsty, barbaric terrorists. This is a mostly inaccurate conclusion to have drawn in 1995; though anti-Muslim sentiments in America rose after 9/11, the U.S. government had not previously taken such a hard-line position.
Meanwhile, people who spend a lot of time around the Southern California metal scene are still trying to figure out who this guy was and if theyd ever run into him in a club. Only two former metalheads, Konrath and Chris Blanc, have come forward to say they actually met Gadahn during his metal years, and both only interacted with him in letters and by phone. Gadahn contacted Konrath in 93 and contributed album reviews and drawings to Xenocide. He contacted Blanc that same year and contributed flyer artwork for Blancs radio show.
I find that so strange, that a kid who was a fan of this never went to any live shows, Malella wonders, because thats what the underground scene is about. Its not like being a fan of Britney Spears. One of the cool things about metal is that you can go to a show for 10 bucks. These bands are always touring; Cannibal Corpse was out there around that time. And in Southern California, every show comes through.
Adam Gadahn was born Adam Pearlman in Orange County. His father, acclaimed 60s underground psychedelic musician Phil Pearlman, was the one who chose the name Gadahn. Phil Pearlman founded the West Coast group Beat of the Earth, a band often compared by critics to their East Coast counterpart, the Velvet Underground.
Though this part of the story might have caused a few in middle America to pause, Californians are accustomed to living with leftover 60s culture, from the Heal the Bay movement to the Krishna festivals on Venice Beach. So its not strange that a gifted 60s counterculture hero, the son of a Jewish urologist and a Christian housewife, would change his name to Gadahn shortly after getting married because (according to a former band mate) they wanted a name that meant nothing. Also not strange was that they moved to a farm in rural Riverside County and took up the profession of raising and humanely slaughtering goats for market. Equally not strange is that Adam and his siblings were home-schooled and raised without running water and electricity. Eccentric, West Coast, out there in la la land, but not strange.
At around age 15, Adam moved out, changed his name back to Pearlman, and stayed with his grandparents in Santa Ana, presumably among other things to watch television and not have to shower out in the woods in the dark. What kid wouldnt? He then became so obsessed by death metal that, as he writes in Becoming Muslim, he didnt clean his room for a year.
According to his sister, Los Angeles environmentalist Nancy Pearlman, their father was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War. She told CNN, Our family are strong believers in non-violence. We are strong believers in peace.
The little available evidence supports this. If you go online to the Lama Workshop at lysergia.com, a source for all things folksy, retro, and psychedelic, you can read at length about Beat of the Earth. In an interview, former band member Karen Darby recalls her brief reunion with Pearlman in 1994, around the re-release of the bands Relatively Clean Rivers album. (Its one of those 60s albums: two songs, one per side, each seemingly about 60 minutes long.)
He had married a wonderful woman who was totally supportive and involved in his choice of lifestyle .The Ranch had NO electricity, they also used a well for water. He was raising goats, which according to him he slaughtered personally and humanely whenever preparing them for market . For some reason I had a hard time envisioning Phil killing anything. One of the funnier situations he described about his family situation was his utter disgust with his in-laws for giving his kids a battery-operated television. He said he was having to act as the TV police, trying to limit the ways in which television might damage his children permanently.
Here Comes That Weird Chill
For its part, the FBI is not much interested in Adam Gadahns past musical life. We arent targeting him for listening to death metal. The FBI isnt interested in individuals who are expressing their views, says FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller. When those views turn into criminal activities, thats when we become interested.
Eimiller cautions that, despite information on the FBI website that Gadahn may be armed and should be considered dangerous, he has not been charged with any crimes. We have questions about his activities based on the intelligence weve received. We receive intelligence from various sources, a multitude of sources, prisoners at Guantanamo, electronic sources. He is wanted for questioning and the investigation is ongoing.
Its also a stretch to suggest that Gadahn was motivated to train with Al Qaeda, if in fact he did, because of an early fascination with metal. His connection to the metal scene couldnt have been that extensive if only two people have come forward to say they even knew him. So far, the FBI has only contacted and interviewed Konrath.
Konrath was at the University of Indiana in 1993, and working on Xenocide, when he says he met Gadahn through e-mail. We never talked on the phone. He wrote some stuff. He seemed pretty decent and a creative guy. I didnt do anything to change his copy. He did some drawings, too, just scribbled stuff.
Gadahns tastes, Konrath says, were typical: Death metal, gore metal, just stupid underground, but not in a bad way. He was into Judas Priest and Cannibal Corpse. He wasnt into anything bizarre.
Gadahns album reviews and art appeared in Xenocide issue five. A few years later, in the fall of 95, I got a few e-mails from him, Konrath recalls. This was pretty much around the time he was getting serious about Islam. He wrote that hed gotten into some trouble in the mosque, but otherwise we never talked about religion or anything like that at all. By 1995, he wasnt Adam, anymore. He was Yahiye Gadahn. (Gadahns articles for Xenocide are online at www.rumored.com/xenocide/.)
Konrath now lives in New York and completed his second book in 2002, Rumored to Exist. He says it took a minute to remember Gadahn. I got home from work and there was a message from a reporter. I thought, Who do I know? While it wasnt a huge shock, it was still a shock. Once the FBI called, I realized it was kind of scary.
Konrath notes that this doesnt fit the profile for metalheads. Most people who are into metal dont go into Islam; they become Bible-bangers. So that seemed kind of strange. I didnt think heavy metal caused jihad, or anything like that. So it must have been a family thing. The only reaction that anybody in the metal community would have to [becoming a Muslim] would be racism. We wouldnt have known the difference between being a Muslim and a Buddhist.
The thing Chris Blanc remembers most about Gadahn was that he was seeking something. Like Konrath, Blanc met Gadahn in the early 90s. Blanc had a radio show and Gadahn helped out by offering music programming selections and creating flyers for the show. I think he did have some identity issues. You didnt get into death metal in that era unless you were rejecting modern society, Blanc says. There were people who intellectualized it and he was one.
Blanc graduated from Pomona College and was actively involved in computer technology. He currently runs a computer-consulting firm in his hometown of Houston, Texas. But while Konrath remembers communicating with Gadahn by e-mail, Blanc has no such recollection. He was not as Internet-friendly when I met him. I communicated with him only by phones and letters. He was a letter writer. Before the Internet you had to write letters worldwide, and I think he did that, but my impression was that he wasnt too found of the computer.
While Blanc admits seeing Adam on that FBI list was alarming, he considers the possibility that the FBI is wrong about him. I dont see Adam as an armed terrorist. He didnt have a violent inclination. Blanc worries about the FBI hunting for someone he remembers as a good, sincere kid.
If I saw him listed as a translator for Al Qaeda, I could believe that, Blanc reasons. Adam was a born communicator and could relate to others. I see him channeling his aggressions through something artistic, much more than becoming a combatant. He wasnt a foaming-at-the-mouth type, which there are plenty of in metal. People forget that this was a nice guy.
And so, his dad, Mr. Pearlman, changes his name to Gadahn (saying its from the Bible, though it doesn't exist there) slaughters goats for consumption according to Islamic dietary laws, and when Adam runs away from home (and I can't say I blame him), he changes his name back to Pearlman, for awhile at least. Yep, he's got an identity problem all right!
That said, I didn't like his threat video (and I do think it is him) last week. I found it, coming just before OBL's video, chilling. We at FR need to know about this dude; I don't think the FBI is underestimating him. Also, I read the reviews attributed to him, as referred to above; Adam writes very intelligently about extremely gross material. (and fwiw, I already know that Siddiqi is one of the bad guys; the author of this story doesn't I suspect)
Here are a couple of good FR posts about him:
Here are the other articles about him:
from article (which is interesting): He appears to have found that place somewhere in Pakistan, where he fled more than five years ago to study and work among fellow Muslims, family members said. Mr. Gadahn, 25, converted to Islam at 17, saying he found the faith more peace-loving and rational than the nondenominational Christianity of his parents, who home-schooled Adam Gadahn and his three siblings.
ping: your last post to me inspired me to find this about Phil Pearlman.
All this new info did was make me more concerned, not less, about what Adam is up to, given the trouble he has gone to get that video splashed here last week...
death metal ping
uh, just in case:
I can't stand metal music at all, and I can't claim I have ever listend to a 'death' metal song.
If you don't like regular metal. you'll hate death metal.
It could be worse he could have been a "grindcore" fan as well.
Well, my son also liked to listen to heavy metal and he went and joined the IDF.
"It could be worse he could have been a "grindcore" fan as well."
If you read the zine reviews authored by 'Adam' (from the reference in the article), he hints that (at that time) he was indeed such a fan (but I don't know what grindcore is and I don't WANT to know, thanks.
Republican Radio does not official support heavy metal music, but one of the younger members of our Broadcast Bunch said "I hate the Devil but must admit I do like his music."
The subject of what music IDF soldiers like is an interesting one (the negev desert 'flash mob' type get togethers in their off hours to dance to technofusion? was interesting to learn about for example. But, it was not the death metal stuff that caught my attention as much as the info about Phil and his impact on his son, Adam.
From my post #1: And so, his dad, Mr. Pearlman, changes his name to Gadahn (saying its from the Bible, though it doesn't exist there) slaughters goats for consumption according to Islamic dietary laws, and when Adam runs away from home (and I can't say I blame him), he changes his name back to Pearlman, for awhile at least. Yep, he's got an identity problem all right!
Btw, I'm a military vet too, and when I was in, hard rock of all stripes seemed more popular overall, though country was a close second...
where can his video be found online? It's 75 minutes, he speaks English, and I'd like to see it.
Creative editing on the author's part. The formerly Jewish father with the name that "means nothing", butchered his goats for Islamic dietary customs, which means he hung out with Muslim wackos, which is where his boy learned all about the Religion of Love in Pieces. In addition, he home schooled his kids and had no internet access, meaning the kids had very limited access to information, just like in any other third world country.
After young Gahdhan's conversion, he physically assaulted a moderate Muslim cleric after a disagreement about Islam. Ovbiously the boy had had enough access to that one aspect of life to have formed stronger opinions and more expertise than a guy who was born, raised and dedicated his whole life to it.
Oh and Gadhan's aunt is an environazi. She apparently had some influence over him. Environazis share a lot of political rallies and other social functions with Islamists.
The fact that California embraces any sort of emotional dysfunction doesn't mean teh rest of the country doesn't suffer because of it. CA is the state that gave us Jihad Johnnie. So why not another typical, white, Calofirnia terrist next door? And another after him, and another and another...
I'm a devout Christian and like good metal.
This Blanc must be seriously stupid. So Gadhan would never hurt a fly...he'll just work for the upper echelon of organized terror? He would never kill; he'll translate the oprders for mass murder into English adn pass them on to the guys hired for the particular job? "Honest Mom, bin Laden is a really nice guy. I never knew he really DID all the stuff he sayd he did!"
I'm a huge metal fan, as well as gothic music.
There are many Christian metal, gothic metal, and hard rock bands. I happen to listen to either (Christian or not).
Music, or TV or magazines or anything else for that matter, will influence those who would be influenced. We see again and again that kids brought up in a world of moral relativity and no sense of structure lose themselves. Left to their own devices they are easily influenced and brainwashed. Some are like the Columbine kids; a study in suburban neglect, and some end up like Jihad Johnny. Either way it's a nihilistic path you'll take when you have no where to go because you don't know where you are.
We need more Kenny G.
Yep (maybe aunt?)
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